Press release – 

GUELPH (January 29, 2016) – Guelph-Wellington has joined 28 other communities from across Canada as part of the 20,000 Homes Campaign, a powerful nationwide campaign that aims to permanently house 20,000 of Canada’s most vulnerable homeless people by July 1, 2018. The initiative is being led locally by the Guelph & Wellington Task Force for Poverty Elimination and the County of Wellington, and supported by a Leadership Committee made up of decision-makers, community champions, and those with expertise in homelessness.

“I believe that homelessness is a national emergency that needs urgent and immediate action,” said Randalin Ellery, Coordinator of the Poverty Task Force. “We need to take on a transformational change and that means our community has to stop managing homelessness, and start ending it.”

On any given night in Guelph Wellington, approximately 130 individuals seek out emergency shelter while many more go undocumented sleeping rough, couch surfing or occupying otherwise unsafe or unfit spaces. A 2015 Point-in-Time Count suggests just under 30% of those individuals are experiencing absolute homelessness, meaning they are living unsheltered or staying in an emergency shelter. Those experiencing absolute homelessness often struggle with deep poverty, trauma, mental illness and addiction along with complex medical problems. Research shows conclusively that people experiencing homelessness have higher mortality rates and a lower life expectancy than other Canadians.

“Joining the 20,000 Homes Campaign is an opportunity to work together with other communities across Canada to find permanent, safe, appropriate and affordable housing for our most vulnerable homeless community members,” said Mayor Cam Guthrie, a member of the Leadership Committee.

The 20,000 Homes Campaign is focused on on the ‘most vulnerable,’ referring specifically to homeless individuals who are assessed as having high acuity (those with complex needs and at risk of death from homelessness) and/or those who are chronically or episodically homeless. The Housing First approach is a recovery-oriented approach to ending homelessness that centers on quickly moving people experiencing homelessness into independent and permanent housing providing supports and services as needed.

“I believe we can achieve meaningful reductions in homelessness by implementing strategies that work, such as Housing First,” said County of Wellington Warden George Bridge, member of the Leadership Committee.  “It’s this type of innovative and collaborative approach that is necessary to make significant change to complex issues and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

The Guelph-Wellington 20,000 Homes Campaign will engage volunteers from the community to get to know homeless people by name and address their housing and health care needs through a simple survey. Completed surveys and recorded data will be shared with local staff who will prioritize entry into housing based on urgent need. The surveys are completed during a local ‘Registry Week,’ which is expected to occur in Guelph-Wellington in late April.

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